What we need is sofware that can build Atom feeds and parsers so the masses can use it.
RSS 2.0 is flexible and extensible, yes, but only from a producer point of view.
For users, readers, aggregators et al, it's plain and simply too flexible - practically everything is optional, and the definitions are not rigid enough, you never know what's in a title or decription (HTML or plain text, a summary or a full post, etc.).
These are not issues that can be fixed with extensions, and the core is frozen.
I just started using a news aggregator this past week. I'm using Bloglines.com, a web-based aggregator that supports both RSS and Atom (though I think the Atom support is still in beta).
Why would anyone use anything other than a web-based client for gaining access to web-based content?
The problem here is in the clients and clients that support both formats make it a non-issue for users.
I'm a user.
I don't give a rat's ass whether the blogs I read have RSS or Atom feeds. What matters is what my aggregator supports.
So, it seems to me that all new clients ought to be supporting both.
Of course, Atom support is a moving target, and that's why a web-based aggregator makes so much sense, because there is no client-side installation.
In short, I just don't get why people have gotten their panties in a wad over this.
OK guys, which is it: is RSS 2.0 extensible to do the things that Atom has stated are goals, or not?
"I can definitely see both formats living together if it becomes beneficial for business feeds to take one side and bloggers to take another."
Businesses like MS, CNN, Yahoo, mailman listservs, etc. have taken one side, almost exclusively. That's great to see both formats living together in happily-ever-after land. What I see is the cost of wasted development effort, maintaining two formats that do the same thing, functionally.
Mark Pilgrim writes, "The truth is it's only extensible if you're willing to play by his rules, which keep changing." Also, "Content producers want more freedom than RSS provides, so they've chosen a truly open format."
These are both factually false statements, to a very large extent: The truth is that ATOM is only extensible if you're willing to play by Sam Ruby's and Mark Pilgrim's rules and a loose-knit band, and the rules don't change much. Also, I believe it is a personal issue that MARK wants more "freedom" than Dave Winer provides. Mark would like to believe he represents ALL content providers, but such is factually incorrect by a long shot.
This last point, however, is not entirely unreasonable, imv. The RSS specification PROCESS could be improved, vastly imo. The Atom specification process was EQUALLY POOR in different ways, but it would require more discussion than I have time for to demonstrate why. (Which I've done before anyway.)
Anybody that believes the Atom process is truly open is factually mistaken, as it is not even close. It gives that APPEARANCE, of course. (Those who believe Atom is open, in error, must be somewhat Deanic, and perhaps still suffering from the Dean cam-pain-train of recent past...;-)
Btw, I believe the flaws in the Atom process demonstrates why it delivered very little in the way of innovation for either developers, but ESPECIALLY for the users. That'd be somewhat of a matter of opinion, of course. The innovation is largely "promised" as coming right round the next corner, but I've been fed that line one time too many, so am HIGHLY skeptical.
"and RSS isn't going to change" -- Dave Winer
There you have it folks, the crux of the problem.
Factual discrepancy: Atom is no more "blog" centric than RSS is; if anything, RSS is more blog centric of the two.
RSS is TOO simple.
- It should be in the CORE of RSS to allow for multiple contibutors to an Item.
- RSS 2.0 lacks both Summary and Description elements. It is not correct to overload the use of the RSS "description" element.
Atom fits nicely into a space where:
- a small independent web-logger can build an Atom template for their favorite application
- a programmer can create Atom output with no more difficulty than implementing something similar, but less capable, in RSS
- a larger content provider might well find that the CORE Atom, sans extensions, meets their needs without introducing uneeded complexity.
The two issues noted above - Multiple contributors (n number of Persons), and distinct Summary and Content elements - are enough to satisfy the three scenarios listed.
Not so with RSS 2.0.
Face it - Atom had the benefit of experience of many people over many years now. RSS was a terrific first step, there is nothing wrong with moving on.
Its clear from Dave Winer's opinion, weighed in everywhere, that he is less interested in moving forward than the rest.
So be it.
Actually, for a new blogger, in most cases, offering support for both formats is as simple as clicking one more button or adding one more plugin. Movable Type, TypePad, Blosxom, LiveJournal, and many others offer drop-in support of both formats in parallel. Only Blogger, to my knowledge, has made an either/or sort of choice.
Technically savvy users do have the option of doing XSLT transforms from Atom 0.3 to RSS 1.0 or 2.0, for example: http://www.aaronland.info/xsl/atom/0.3/ , though that's obviously not feasible for the average Blogspot user.
The argument for RSS over Atom often comes down to "simplicity", but the truth is that any tool developer savvy enough with an XML parser to produce or consume an RSS feed already has the skills to do the same with Atom. The early FUD was that handling Atom was going to require the skills that only large corporations could bring to bear, and this has already been disproven by the large number of "one man shops" and hobbyists who have supported Atom with their tools.
RSS is extensible, so if the Atom people, and Google (crazy or crazy like a fox, great characterization) could have added to it, instead of trying to replace it. Also, content providers can safely provide RSS only, no aggregator is going to stop reading it, and RSS isn't going to change, so you're safe.
I certainly haven't taken sides on this issue yet, as I am just learning more and more about Atom as the days go by, but I do feel that there are certain benefits to both the current (and static) developement of RSS and the lack of further developement. I like RSS for the main reason that it is fast, easy to download into an aggregator and I don't get a lot of the other "noise" that I could get from an e-mail message. I get the meat right off the bone and I get to choose which parts I want to eat. So with the exception of a header graphic on the feed, I like the fact that I can read, click, and read some more.
Now, from a marketers perspective, I can totally see the other side of the story as well. With the increase in spam filtering, messgages not getting through to end users, RSS is a great format to start incorporating as an alternative. BUT, lots of e-newsletters are driven off of advertising, which in most cases require some graphical input. So by the fact that RSS has stopped progressing, Atom might become a viable alternative for Business Blogging, or advertising revenue.
The simple fact is that syndication is now the way to go on many news and information sites, not only blogs. The fact that my aggregator is mostly filled with Web site feeds vs. blog feeds is evident of that to me. I can definitely see both formats living together if it becomes beneficial for business feeds to take one side and bloggers to take another.